He became leader of the People's Party in 2004 and Prime Minister in 2011 following the People's Party landslide victory in that year's general election becoming the sixth president of the Spanish democracy. His party lost their majority in the 2015 general election, but after that election ended in deadlock, a second election in 2016 enabled Rajoy to be re-elected prime minister as head of a minority government.
Rajoy was a Minister under the José María Aznar administration, occupying different leading roles in different Ministries between 1996 and 2003, and he also was the Deputy Prime Minister between 2000 and 2003. He was the Leader of the Opposition between 2004 and 2011 under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's government.
Born 27 March 1955 in Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Rajoy is the grandson of Enrique Rajoy Leloup, one of the architects of the Statute of Autonomy of Galicia in 1932, who was removed from university teaching by the dictatorship in the early 1950s. He is the son of Mariano Rajoy Sobredo, a jurist, and president of the Provincial Court of Pontevedra, the city where he grew up.
Later on, his father was transferred to León and the whole family moved there. He was duly enrolled, together with his brothers Luis and Enrique, and spent ten years there before moving to the Jesuit school in Vigo. After finishing secondary school he started university, enrolling in the Law Faculty in Santiago de Compostela.
Rajoy graduated from the University of Santiago de Compostela and passed the competitive examination required in Spain to enter into the civil service, becoming the youngest-ever property registrar at age 23.
He was assigned to Padrón (A Coruña), Villafranca del Bierzo (León) and Santa Pola (Alicante), a position he still holds. In that year, Rajoy sustained facial injuries in a traffic accident. Since then, he has always worn a beard to cover the scars from these injuries.
Rajoy married Elvira "Viri" Fernández Balboa on 28 December 1996, in La Toja island (Pontevedra). The couple have two children.
While on the campaign trail in 2011, Rajoy published his autobiography, En Confianza (In Confidence).
Earlier member of the Spanish National Union (UNE), Rajoy joined the right-wing party People's Alliance (AP), becoming a deputy in the inaugural legislature of the Galician Parliament in 1981. In 1982, he was appointed by Galician regional President, Xerardo Fernández Albor, as Minister of Institutional Relations of the Xunta de Galicia. On 11 June 1986, Rajoy was elected President of the Provincial Council of Pontevedra, a position he held until July 1991.
In the General Elections of 22 June 1986, he won a seat in the Congress of Deputies as the head of the AP's list for Pontevedra, although he resigned in November to take up the post of vice-president of the Xunta of Galicia following the resignation of Xosé Luis Barreiro and the rest of the ministers. He occupied this latter position until the end of September 1987. In May 1988 he was elected General Secretary of the PA in Galicia during an extraordinary congress of the regional party.
When in 1989 the AP merged with other parties to form the People's Party (PP), with Manuel Fraga as its president, Rajoy was named a member of its National Executive Committee and delegate for Pontevedra. He was reelected to parliament in 1993. Before the PP's triumph in the 1996 elections, he was a PP-designated member of the Commission of Parliamentary Control of the RTVE.
In April, the former president of Castile and León and presidential candidate of the government general elections in 1989, José María Aznar, was elected president of the PP. Confirmed in the National Executive, Mariano Rajoy was appointed deputy secretary general of the party. He was re-elected in Pontevedra in the election on 6 June 1993.
On 3 March 1996, the PP won the early parliamentary elections and formed a government with the support of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Convergence and Union (CiU) and the Canarian Coalition. Rajoy, a long-time associate of newly elected Prime Minister José María Aznar, made the move into national politics in Aznar's first government when he was appointed Minister of Public Administration on 6 May. His term was marked by the adoption, in 1997, of the Law on organization and operation of the general administration of the State (LOFAGE), which regulates the organization and functions of central government, and the Law on Government.
He changed his portfolio on 20 January 1999 and replaced Esperanza Aguirre as Minister of Education and Culture. Just after his appointment, he was reelected vice-secretary general of the PP during its thirteenth national conference.
In 2000 he led the People's Party election campaign for the elections on 12 March, in which they won absolute majority. On 28 April 2000, Rajoy was appointed Senior Vice President of Government and Minister of the Presidency.
Less than a year later, on 28 February 2001, he replaced Jaime Mayor Oreja, candidate for President of the Government of the Basque Country, as Interior Minister. In this role, he passed legislation including the Organic Law on the right of association, approved the decree implementing the Organic Law on the rights and duties of foreigners, and presented the draft law on the prevention of alcoholism.
In the major cabinet reshuffle of 9 July 2002, he became minister of the presidency, retained his vice presidency and was appointed spokesman of the government. In his new role, he faced two very difficult times of Aznar's second term: the Prestige oil tanker disaster off the coast of Galicia, and the participation of Spain in the Iraq War, at the request of George W. Bush.
Approached, with Rodrigo Rato and Jaime Mayor Oreja, to succeed José Maria Aznar at the direction of the PP and as presidential candidate of the government in the 2004 general elections, he was chosen as future PP leader on 1 September 2003 and left the government two days later.
On 30 August 2003, Aznar announced that he would retire from politics in the 2004 elections and proposed Rajoy as his successor. After the 14th Congress of the People's Party in October 2004, Rajoy became the new Chairman of the party, by then in the opposition, having lost the elections to the PSOE.
On 11 March 2004, three days before the 2004 general elections, Madrid was struck by terrorist attacks, which the government initially blamed on the armed Basque separatist organisation, ETA. Aznar's government and government party leaders insisted on accusing ETA of the attacks, and on 13 March, Rajoy claimed to believe this because he was convinced of their will and capability for committing such crimes. The government was accused of attempting to blame ETA for the attacks in order to stay on track to win the elections (as they were favored to do), but then the Prisa center-left media company broke news that Al‑Qaida, rather than ETA, was responsible.
On 14 March 2004 the PSOE, under the leadership of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, won the elections with a majority of 1,300,000 votes over the PP, and obtained 164 deputies, while the PP obtained 9,763,144 votes but 148 deputies, 35 less than they obtained in 2000. Rajoy was elected for the province of Madrid.
On 1 December 2005, Rajoy survived a helicopter accident, along with Madrid Regional Government President Esperanza Aguirre; he broke a finger in the accident.
Rajoy faced a serious situation within his party when he came under public pressure from the electorally successful Alberto Ruiz Gallardón (Madrid's Mayor) to be included in the PP lists for the March 2008 general election. Gallardón represents a more centrist sector within the party, whereas Rajoy, Angel Acebes and Eduardo Zaplana are widely accepted as representing a more conservative wing of the party, closer to Aznar. Rajoy's final decision was to leave Gallardón out of the list for those elections, an action which provoked concern about the alienation of potential PP voters. Some experts and newspapers even argued that it could cost Rajoy the elections. In any case, the power struggle for succession created a tense situation for him and for the party.
On 30 January 2008, Rajoy received the support of Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy for the March 2008 general election. The PP was defeated in the general election, however, and Rajoy continued to lead his party in opposition.
His criticisms of the Zapatero administration were focused on what he perceived as:The derogation of ambitious plans of the previous executive
The Plan Hidrológico Nacional (National Hydrological Plan)
The LOCE Organic Law on the Quality of Education
The alleged "unnecessary" statutory reforms which devolved competences to the autonomous communities, such as submitted in the Catalan, and Andalusian referendums with low turn-outs. According to Rajoy, some of those reforms constituted concealed changes of the autonomous communities towards a confederation, endangering the integrity of the State
Zapatero's view of Spain, which, Rajoy proposed, would require a reform of the Spanish Constitution. Such a reform that would need approval in a national referendum.
The alleged weakness facing the peace process opened as a result of the permanent ceasefire declared by ETA on 30 December 2006, broken by the Madrid Barajas International Airport bombing and arms robbery
The legalization of abortion until 14 weeks of pregnancy, a law that Mariano Rajoy considered "criminal" and against the will of large sectors of the Spanish society
In foreign policy:The alleged cold relations with United States and Poland.
The alliances with Latin American left-wing leaders: Hugo Chávez, from Venezuela, Fidel Castro, from Cuba and Evo Morales, from Bolivia.
The 2011 general election campaign was dominated by economic issues. "Election campaign begins, crushed by the economic situation", was the headline in El Pais on 2 September 2011; the same day, El Mundo claimed that "the unemployment election campaign [had begun]". The high rate of unemployment was a major issue in the campaign. Close to 5 million people were out of work at the time of the election, and 1.5 million households had no wage earners.
Rajoy slammed Spain's unemployment rate as "unbearable and unacceptable" as data showed 4,350 people per day losing their jobs in October 2011. The Socialists, he said, "did not know how to manage Spain's economy, and now the Spanish people are paying the price for that". He promised he would shepherd Spain out of its crisis and recover the shaky confidence of international investors and reduce the government's ominously high borrowing costs. The debt crisis in Greece had raised concerns over the solvency of other weak economies like Spain. The PP campaign slogan called on voters to "Join the change!" and the party manifesto stressed its commitment to cutting the country's budget deficit in line with EU requirements. It proposed tax breaks for savers and small firms who hired staff; benefits for those who took on young employees; more flexible labour contracts and wage negotiations and major cuts in red tape, to encourage entrepreneurs to set up businesses. At the same time, it pledged to protect public healthcare and education, saving money through efficiency and better management.
On 16 December 2015, four days before elections, Rajoy was punched in the head by a boy while in Pontevedra in his native Galicia. The boy was arrested.
In November 2011, Rajoy’s right-wing People's Party won its biggest majority since the country’s return to representative democracy in the 1970s, securing 186 out of the 350 seats in the lower house of Parliament. Voters turned to him in hopes of alleviating the pain of Europe’s debt crisis. Following the general election held in 2011, Rajoy was elected Prime Minister by the Congress of Deputies on 21 December 2011.
Rajoy, designated candidate for Prime Minister of the government of King Juan Carlos I, appeared before the Congress of Deputies on 19 December 2011. He stated that to achieve the objective of a deficit of 4.4% of GDP in 2012, an investment of 16.5 billion euros would be needed. He added that his only increased public spending would be the revaluation of pensions, beginning 1 January 2012, and that he would not create any new jobs in the public sector, except for security forces. He stated an intention "to reduce the size of the public sector" and also wanted to reform public holidays so as to avoid encouragement of popular four-day weekends. This would be accomplished by incorporating the use of the nearest Monday for most public holidays. He also announced his desire to end the practice of early retirement.
Rajoy was chosen by Parliament two days later with 187 votes in favor, 149 votes against and 14 abstentions, receiving the support of the People's Party, the Forum of Asturias (FAC) and the Navarrese People's Union (UPN), with Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), Convergence and Union (CiU), the United Left (IU) and Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) dissenting. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), the coalition Amaiur and the Canary Coalition (CC) abstained. He was appointed a few hours later as Prime Minister by Juan Carlos I and sworn in the next day at the Zarzuela Palace, before the King and Queen, Zapatero, the outgoing prime minister, and the Presidents of the Cortes Generales, and others.
Rajoy's government was formed on 21 December 2011 with thirteen ministers—the lowest number in Spanish democratic history. Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, Vice President of the Government, Minister of the Presidency, and government spokesperson, and Ana Pastor Julián, Minister of Equipment, were appointed. The Ministries of Culture, Science, and Territorial Policy were ended, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance was split into two new ministries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Environment was kept intact, despite statements made by Rajoy speech before Congress that indicated the opposite intention. Among the ministers, Cristóbal Montoro Romero, Minister of Finance, and Miguel Arias Cañete, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment, had been members of the previous Aznar government and continued to occupy the same posts.
On 30 December 2011, the Council of Ministers approved a cuts plan (called an austerity plan) amounting to 8.9 billion euros in savings and €6.2 billion in new revenues. Salaries of public workers were frozen, the workweek in public administration was reduced to 37.5 hours, and recruitment of new public employees was halted, except in the areas of security, health and education. A program that provided rent assistance for young people was ended, and the minimum wage was frozen—something that had not happened since 1966. The income tax and tax on real estate was also increased for 2012 and 2013. Pensions were adjusted up 1%, however, and the tax deduction for the purchase of homes was reinstated. The premium of 400 euros for the long-term unemployed (due to a lack of industry) at the end of law was maintained but only for those registered as job seekers with the public employment service for at least 12 months out of the previous 18 and whose income amounts were less than three quarters of the net minimum wage. A 4% value-added tax was expanded to include new home purchases.
On 4 January 2013 the association Democracia Real Ya (DRY), created after the 15 May 2011 protest movement, brought charges against Mariano Rajoy and another 62 deputies (including four ministers) before the Supreme Court, accusing them of diversion of public funds and misappropriation. Mariano Rajoy was accused of receiving a subsistence allowance despite the fact that he was living in the Moncloa Palace in Madrid. The lawsuit before the Supreme Court was a consequence of the data which had appeared in the media providing information about several deputies who had houses in Madrid but at the same time were receiving extra funds for lodging. According to the association DRY, these representatives, who could be lodged at no cost to the public purse, were paid a monthly subsistence allowance valued at 1,823.36 euros. Furthermore, if they had been elected by the constituency of Madrid and had a house in this city, they were allowed 870 euros per month to cover accommodation and food expenses resulting from the exercise of their functions that, with respect to Rajoy, were already covered – from the state budget – in the Moncloa Palace. DRY therefore accused them of diversion of public funds and misappropriation. Additionally, DRY demanded that they return all the money that didn't belong to them, particularly bearing in mind that "the cuts are making most Spaniards' life a misery".
On 24 April 2013, having found no irregularity in the existing regulation and discarding the existence of constituents elements of offense, the Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit.
The newspaper El País published in its 30 January 2013 edition a series of documents, under the title of "Bárcenas' secret papers", referring to the accounts of the conservative party from 1999 to 2009. According to those hand-written documents, Mariano Rajoy and María Dolores de Cospedal had received extra payments in "black" money from the former treasurer of the People's Party, Luis Bárcenas. These documents state that both Bárcenas and his predecessor, Álvaro Lapuerta, managed cash donations from businessmen and private builders (three of whom are additionally accused in the Gürtel case), cited as sources of undeclared income of the PP. Expenditure included, apart from allocations for the effective functioning of the party, payments made to members of the leadership of the party during those years with no explicitly stated purpose. Barcenas' accounts show yearly payments of 25,200 euros for 11 years to the President, in addition to smaller amounts for a total estimated at 33,207 with purposes such as "Mariano's suits", "Mariano's ties", or "M.R.'s suits". PP Secretary-General María Dolores de Cospedal also appears in the papers of these payments, as well as other leaders, such as former ministers Javier Arenas, Jaime Mayor Oreja and Francisco Álvarez-Cascos.
By 7 February, just one week after publication of the documents, one million people had signed a petition launched by the organization Change.org asking for the immediate resignation of Mariano Rajoy.
On 8 July, the center-right newspaper El Mundo, usually a support of the Popular Party, published a four-hour interview with Luis Bárcenas, which had taken place a few days before he was put behind bars on 27 June, in which the former party treasurer revealed that the People's Party had been illegally financed for 20 years. The following day, the same newspaper published the originals of Barcenas' papers which reflected overpayments to Mariano Rajoy in 1997, 1998 and 1999, when he was a minister in the Aznar cabinet. These payments violated the Incompatibilities Act of 1995. On 14 July, El Mundo published several text messages between Rajoy and Bárcenas, the latest dating from early 2013, after the discovery of Bárcenas' bank accounts in Switzerland and after some media had pointed to illegal payments within the PP. In those messages, Rajoy expressed his support to Bárcenas and asked him to keep quiet.
In light of these new revelations, High Court judge Pablo Ruz summoned Bárcenas to appear before him on 15 July. In this new appearance, Bárcenas admitted the payment of 50,000 euros in 2010 to Rajoy and Dolores de Cospedal. As a result of the scandal, all the opposition parties urged Rajoy to give an explanation to parliament, with the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party threatening him with a censure motion should he refuse to come out and explain himself, and demanding his immediate resignation.
In his appearance before Congress, on 1 August, Rajoy admitted that he had made "a mistake" in trusting Bárcenas and criticised the opposition for trying to "criminalize" him by believing the word of an "offender", stating that he wasn't resigning nor calling new elections. Rajoy also stated that Bárcenas was no longer a member of the PP when he, Rajoy, was appointed prime minister (in December 2011). However, in 11 August, El Mundo published a paysheet, dated May 2012, issued by the PP for the ex-treasurer, as well as a letter sent by Bárcenas himself to Rajoy in April 2010 (just a few days after he [Bárcenas] had been officially "removed" from his duties as treasurer) informing Rajoy of his "re-incorporation" in the party.
The 2015 general election was held on 20 December, the latest possible day. The result was that the People's Party remained the most voted-for party, but it lost 64 of its 187 seats and thus its majority. The election produced a fragmented parliament and an uncertain political situation that led to another election in 2016, as neither Rajoy nor the left-wing opposition could form a coalition government.
In the general election of 26 June 2016, the PP increased its number of seats in parliament, while still falling short of an overall majority. Eventually on 29 October Rajoy was re-appointed as prime minister, after the majority of the PSOE members abstained in the parliamentary vote rather than oppose him.
In February 2016, Rajoy was declared 'persona non grata' of Pontevedra, his adopted city, because of his cabinet's decision to extend the operating license of a controversial cellulose factory by 60 years (see List of people declared persona non grata).
On 26 July, Rajoy is due to appear as a witness in the Gürtel corruption case. This situation prompted a no-confidence motion against Rajoy's government, which was debated on 13 June and defeated as expected on 14 June.
Rajoy is a strong defender of bullfighting. He has said that "the tradition is an art form deeply rooted in Spanish history". He lifted the ban on live bullfights on state-run TV and they are once again shown in the traditional 6 pm slot on TVE.
Scotland held a referendum on independence from the UK on 18 September 2014. In November 2013, Rajoy stated that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership of the European Union, causing considerable irritation to the Scottish Government and criticism that Rajoy was interfering in the internal affairs of another state. Relations between the Spanish and Scottish governments deteriorated further when the Scottish Government alleged that Rajoy invited a senior UK official to visit Madrid allegedly to co-ordinate British and Spanish opposition to the independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia.Gold Medal of the Spanish Council of the Professional Cycling (25 April 2001).
Sash of Special Category of the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (18 April 2012).
Honorary Doctorate in Law by the Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá, Colombia (21 April 2012).
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III (12 September 2003).
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of Chile.
Order of the Republic of Serbia (2013)